So, What Do You Do For A Living?

Don't struggle to answer questions about your profession anymore. Prepare for them.

How many times have you been asked, “So, what do you do?” And how many times has that question made you timid or caused anxiety?

If the answer is more than one, and it’s still happening–stop. Please. Let’s get it together.

You should not be caught off-guard time after time by a question so common and so basic. Having an answer is like having a resume or business cards. You should be prepared. You know, at some point, people will ask.

I understand that it’s more difficult to talk about your work when you’re a freelancer, author or some other type of creator, but you’re the one who chose what you want to do. Hiding it from people is an act of cowardice.

Related: Are You Really “Aspiring”? Or Are You Just Scared?

When you’re open and honest about what you do, you will get odd looks sometimes. One question often will lead to a series of others. And, yes, there are some people who will inquire further simply to diminish your claim.

Those sickening individuals are the same people who feel superior to cashiers and restaurant workers. They walk around believing in an imaginary caste system. They have personal issues. Forget them. They’re as irrelevant to you as you are to them.

But everyone who asks questions about your response isn’t being facetious. For some people, the concept of being a freelancer or a creative entrepreneur is genuinely out of their element.

I’m fortunate to have spent most of my life around entrepreneurs and creative people. Untraditional job titles and people who make money doing their own thing has never seemed new or strange to me. Maybe your life has been that way too. But that’s not everyone’s experience.

Some people have always viewed certain things as interests or hobbies and have no clue about pursuing them to make a living. Some people come from a long line of working-class families. If there isn’t a boss and handbook involved they can’t see how it’s a job.

Don’t blow people off because you assume how they’ll react. A lot of them are genuinely interested, and you may be surprised how much respect and awe they have if you talk about your work with confidence. Besides, they may become valuable connections and future supporters. You may even become their inspiration for doing something more creative with their lives.


Prepare a response to questions about what you do for a living asap.

Think of the questions that are likely to follow your initial response: Where can I find your work? Where have you been published? You can make a living doing that?

Decide how much information you want to divulge and how you want to frame it. Pre-plan how you’re going to shut down a conversation if you feel interrogated or mocked.

Whatever you do, don’t concoct something you aren’t comfortable saying. That will just lead to a different type of awkwardness. And don’t lie. You shouldn’t feel the need to create a work of fiction about your life for strangers.

Craft a response you can deliver with confidence. It shouldn’t change or be spoken in a softer tone when you’re getting questionable looks or around people who are more successful than you. Whatever you’re doing, be proud of it. Chances are it requires more courage than the traditional jobs held by the people you’ll be talking to.

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